Carol (Missy) Cohen MPH, CHHC

Are You a Sugar Addict?

So many of us joke about our sugar addiction but it is not a laughing matter. Sugar addiction is a very real thing and detrimental to our physical and emotional health. It is reported that it is the most common addiction in present day history. More common than marijuana and coffee. According to the American Health Association, the average adult consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar per day and, even more shocking, the average child consumes 32 teaspoons of sugar per day. That converts to more than 135 pounds of sugar per year per person!

What Makes Sugar Addictive:

  • Even though we want to stop consuming it, we have a compulsive need to do so.
  • Sugar, like other addictive drugs, requires more and more of the same substance to cause the same feelings.
  • It affects neurotransmitters in the brain in the same way that street drugs such as cocaine.
  • If the substance is removed, the person has withdrawal symptoms. In the case of sugar, those symptoms may be headache, nausea, insomnia, moodiness, nervousness, anxiety, as well as other symptoms.

Where is Sugar Found?

Sugar is found in many of our everyday foods. The top three places that we get it is from:

  • Beverages such as sodas, juices, and other soft drinks. Yes, that iced tea that you are drinking as you read this, is loaded with sugar!
  • Cakes, cookies and other items that contain white flour as well as sugars. When it comes to energy provided to our body, because of the way flour is processed in our bodies, flour and sugar are essentially the same. That is why you may see them referred to as “the white evils.”
  • Be sure to read your cereal boxes carefully. Cereals can be loaded with sugar and you may not realize it until you read the ingredients and see “sugar” listed 6 different ways on one package. Any word that ends in –ose (maltose, sucrose, dextrose) or –ol (sorbitol, mannitol, etc.) are sugars. Also, HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) is a sugar. And, just because maple syrup, honey, and agave are natural, they are still sugars and can affect our blood-sugar levels.

In addition, sugar can be in everyday items such as ketchup, mayonnaise, salad dressing, etc. Basically, if it it processed in some manner, there is a good chance that it contains sugar. Also, foods that are low-fat tend to be loaded with sugar. Fat makes things taste good and when it is removed, sugar is added to make things palatable.

What about artificial sweeteners?

Those artificial sweeteners, you know what I’m talking about – the pink, blue, or yellow stuff, is not helping you lose weight or control your sugar cravings. Quite the contrary. When you consume an artificial sweetener, your body gets all excited for something sweet to come in and starts preparing for it by releasing insulin. When the sugar that is expected is not coming in, the insulin needs it and triggers the brain to signal you that you are hungry and need something sweet. In response, you reach for a candy bar. Now you have dropped some serious cancer-causing chemicals into your body, disrupted the bacteria in your gut, AND you still need that candy bar!

So, what’s the big deal?

If sugar is everywhere, than it must be okay to eat, right?!


According to Cynthia Perkins, M.Ed., “The consumption of sugar is considered to be one of the three major causes of degenerative disease in America even by the American Diabetes Association. Sugar is so destructive it can probably be linked to just about any health condition you think of and then some.” Sugar has been linked to heart disease, autoimmune disease, thyroid conditions, mood disorders including anxiety and depression, and almost every other disease or chronic condition that you can think of.

How do I remove sugar from my diet?

One way to remove sugar from your diet is to replace any beverage that you consume on a regular basis with water. Many people do not like the taste of water. It can be flavored with natural fruits and vegetables such as by adding lemon or cucumber slices to a glass of water. Another way to flavor your water is to add frozen berries to it. As they thaw, their juices naturally flavor the water.

Eating sweet fruits and vegetables can also help curb your appetite for sweet things. Try sweet potatoes, apples, or carrots – either roasted or raw to help with your sweet tooth. Also, include sweet things in your life by doing something that you enjoy every day and creating strong relationships.

Are you addicted to sugar? I’d love to hear your story!


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Comments (2)

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    Julie Mitton


    Love the article! This is something I struggle with all the time. How much is a safe amount of sugar in a day? I use My Fitness Pal app and while I really like it I am not convinced it gives correct info. For instance, for my goals, it suggests a 1,780 cal diet and allows 67 g of sugar! That seems really high to me. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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      Hi Julie,
      That is a great question! Thank you for posting it. There are 4 grams of sugar in 1 teaspoon. (To be accurate, it’s 4.2 grams.) So 67 grams of sugar would convert to 14 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. For a visual, I would recommend measuring that out. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume 6 teaspoons of sugar per day.


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